Housebound, alone and unable to flee: DEC warns that millions of older people and people with disabilities now at high risk in Ukraine
- As 2 million people flee Ukraine, older people and people with disabilities are at risk of being left behind, unable to reach safety
- Nine out of 10 older people affected by the conflict in Ukraine need help to get food because of mobility issues and/or living alone
- Almost 8 out of 10 report insufficient access to clean drinking water due to active shelling and airstrikes disrupting water supplies
- Images of older people in Eastern Ukraine available here
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which launched its Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal last week, warns today that older people and those with disabilities in Ukraine risk being left behind and urgently need protection and assistance.
The DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal has so far raised more than £120 million to support DEC member charities working in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to scale up their work.
As more than 2 million people have fled Ukraine in recent days in search of safety, and more have been displaced internally, older people and people with disabilities are at risk of being left behind without care or support.
Many cannot escape from affected areas nor seek shelter from bombings due to lack of mobility. They are also at risk of violence and neglect.
In the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine, which has seen heavy fighting, a survey conducted by HelpAge International (partner of DEC member Age International) last week reveals the extent of the needs of older people:
- Nine out of 10 (91%) need help to get food because they have mobility issues and many live alone.
- 79% report insufficient access to clean drinking water due to active shelling and airstrikes disrupting water supplies.
- More than one third (34%) are in urgent need of medication for chronic diseases like diabetes, blood pressure and pain relief.
- 91% report they are experiencing electricity cuts, with no way to warm their homes in freezing conditions. Many older people need thermal blankets.
- Three quarters (75%) need hygiene items like toothpaste, soap, adult diapers and toilet paper, all vital to help prevent infection.
Chris Roles, Managing Director for Age International, said:
"We know from our work in the conflict zones of eastern Ukraine since 2014, that older people are incredibly vulnerable in these terrible situations. Many older people and those with disabilities will be unable to flee the violence: they may be housebound or unable to walk without support. Added to this, many older people will completely alone, isolated and frightened. Some can't make the long arduous journey out of the country because their health is bad, or because they are suffering from osteoporosis or heart disease, and so won’t be able to make the trip.
“We are working with our partners in Ukraine providing emergency food and water kits, medical, hygiene and dignity kits, and support in response to the trauma that so many will be experiencing. And for those older people and their families crossing into neighbouring countries, we want to provide all these things and shelter too. Time is critical and it is essential that we act fast to save as many lives as possible and continue to be a lifeline to older people who have very little hope of ever being safe again.”
For older people left behind, life has become lonely, and days are punctuated by nearby shelling.
Olena*, 71, lives alone in a village where the closest bomb shelter is several kilometres away. She can hardly walk due to pain in her legs and joints and does not own a car. She said:
“I constantly hear explosions, and I don’t know if they will reach me. Everyone needs peace and quiet: children, adults, and older people. I do not want to worry about the lives of my children and grandchildren, and about what will happen to me tomorrow.”
Maria*, 70, is a widow whose two daughters live in Russia. In 2011 she fractured her hip due to osteoporosis and has had trouble walking since. She said:
“I am feeling very lonely. Because of the conflict, my daughters can't come to me. I live on the line of contact, where they shoot almost every day. The shelling is what worries me the most. What if they hit the house, and blast the windows, roof, doors out? Who will help me?”
Age International is distributing food, water, medications and emergency kits for older people in Ukraine. The organisation is one of 13 DEC charities and local partners currently in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries providing food, water, shelter, medical assistance and mental health support.
- £30 could provide essential hygiene supplies for three people for one month
- £50 could provide blankets for four families
- £100 could provide emergency food for two families for one month
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
Notes to editors:
Media enquiries please call 020 7387 0200 or 07734 653616 (out of hours).
DEC charities are working in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries, ramping up efforts to meet the growing humanitarian need. We have spokespeople available in Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Moldova and the UK.
For more information or to request interviews in advance please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Images of older people in Eastern Ukraine available here. A general collection of images and video footage of DEC member charities responding as refugees arrive into neighbouring countries is available here.
About the DEC: The DEC brings together 15 leading UK aid charities at times of crisis overseas to raise funds quickly and efficiently. In these times of crisis, people in life-and-death situations need our help and our mission is to save, protect and rebuild lives through effective humanitarian response. The DEC’s 15 member charities are: Action Against Hunger, ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, International Rescue Committee UK, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK, Tearfund and World Vision UK.
Thirteen of the DEC’s 15 members are either responding or planning to respond in Ukraine or in neighbouring countries and will receive funds from this appeal. Some may work through trusted local partners. They are Action Against Hunger, ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, International Rescue Committee UK, Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK and World Vision UK.
Through UK Aid Match the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) gives the British public the opportunity to have a say in how the UK aid budget is spent whilst boosting the impact of the very best British charities to change and save the lives of some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. The UK Government match funded up to £25 million of public donations to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. This is the largest commitment ever made to a DEC appeal through UK Aid Match and will double the impact of public donations, ensuring that charities working on the ground can reach those in urgent need.
UK Aid Match has increased the impact of a number of DEC appeals to help those in need around the world, including most recently to support people in Afghanistan through DEC’s Afghanistan Appeal in 2021.
Enquiries about UK Aid Match and UK Government support for Ukraine should be directed to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Newsdesk. Please email email@example.com.
How to donate:
- Online: dec.org.uk
- Phone: 0370 60 60 900
- SMS: To donate £10 text SUPPORT to 70150. Texts cost £10 plus the standard network charge and the whole £10 goes to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. You must be 16 or over and please ask the bill payer's permission. For full terms and conditions and more information go to www.dec.org.uk
- Or donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office or send a cheque by post to Post: DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, PO Box 999, London EC3A 3AA.